Easy Lebanese Red Lentil Soup

5 from 4 votes
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Easy Lebanese Red Lentil Soup is packed with flavor and comes together with just a few simple ingredients in less than 30 minutes. This soup includes many of the Mediterranean Diet requisites: legumes, grains, herbs, olive oil. Find the best of these ingredients in my online shop!

Lentil bulgur tomato soup in a bowl with yellow pot

I am pleased with myself if I’m able to work in a component of the Mediterranean diet in every meal or snack of the day. Herbs and spices here, healthy fats there, legumes, grains, you know the drill. After all, this is the healthiest of ways to eat and live.

So when along comes a dish like my cozy red lentil soup that rolls several of those healthy-delicious factors into one dish, I get a little crazy excited. I start saying things like “I’m making this every week from here on out.” I have a brother (Richard, this is you), who likes to hold me to that kind of thing. He’ll call at dinner time and ask if I’ve made the _____ this week yet?

Often I can say YES, without the whiteness of a lie on my back. There’s weekly roasted chicken (check), sheik al mehsheh (eggplant baked with tomato sauce, check-ish), Mom’s buttercream brownies (every week? Now that’s just plain untrue and I’ll own that. But I could make every week. I’d like to every week, right?).

Back to the soup. It’s just so simple simple simple! And delicious/healthy that many times too.

Bulgur and red lentils in a sieve on a cutting board

Ingredients

Red lentils, a very neutral legume that I use in my Mediterranean quinoa salad. Red lentils are protein and fiber-rich. Always sort any types of lentils (green lentils, black lentils) to pick out any tiny little stones or debris. A quick rinse is just a good practice to whisk away any other impurities.

Bulgur, which is a form of par-cooked wheat. This bulgur is coarse, a larger granule than fine bulgur. It adds thickness and a satisfying texture wherever it goes (think Lebanese mujadara). Bulgur can be rinsed before using to remove some of its starch, or added directly. Bulgur makes this hearty soup even heartier!

Broth. Use chicken broth (or chicken stock), vegetable broth, or water.

Fresh herbs in the form of mint—use fresh as a garnish and dried in the soup. When herbs, fresh or dried, enter your cooking, their flavorful nature reduces the need for too much salt. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, used in the soup and for finishing with a drizzle on top. This healthy fat replaces the need/desire for butter and adds that fruity/complex flavor we love. I like a robust flavored olive oil to top my soups, so we know it’s really there! Try Lebanese olive oils, my favorites.

Dried mint in olive oil on the stove

How long does it take to cook red lentils?

Red lentils are “split,” which means they are naturally split apart across the middle of the legume. And which also means they cook much more quickly than other lentils and other legumes. Red lentils require no soaking or par-cooking as dark brown lentils do for Lebanese mujadara. These cook fully in less than 30 minutes. 

What do red lentils taste like? In a word, these lentils taste of a creaminess that is the hallmark of favorite legumes when they are well cooked. The way that red split lentils break down creates a creamy soup, a wonderful lusciousness and silkiness to any soup they are in. are nutty and sweet tasting, and they have a great creamy consistency that makes them perfect for hearty soups and stews.

Tomato bulgur lentil soup in a yellow pot with a ladle

Lebanese-style Red Lentil Soup

Other than chopping an onion, there’s nothing to do here other than combine ingredients and let them cook. That means you can have this dish on the table within about 30 minutes. Yes please.

For the soup:

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat extra virgin olive oil until it shimmers. Add chopped onion and salt, cooking until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add minced garlic, paprika, cayenne and tomato paste. Cook for about a minute to release the aroma and flavor. 
  3. Add diced tomatoes, increase the heat and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Stir in the bulgur, lentils, broth, and water, and bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for about 25 minutes, or until the lentils and bulgur are cooked through.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

For the mint oil finishing oil:

  1. Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook just until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the mint salt and cayenne. Remove from the heat.
  2. Serve the soup with a generous drizzle of mint oil on top of each bowl.

Tips for making the soup


Taste the soup before serving it. Soups are a journey in that they take on flavor every step of the cooking process. At the end of cooking, taste to be sure both the lentils and bulgur are fully cooked and the seasonings are balanced. Sometimes another pinch of salt goes a long way, or additional broth if too much salt has been added.

Take time for the flavor makers! The mint oil is one of the things that sets this soup recipe apart from the pack. It also elevates the soup, making an impressive look and flavor that is company-worthy! The squeeze of lemon is important here; a hit of lemon zest is also a nice addition, as are lemon wedges on the side.

Don’t substitute other lentils. In this recipe, the split red lentils are key to the texture and flavor, as well as the cooking time, of the soup recipe.

Do feel free to substitute or add in flavors you enjoy: red pepper flakes, fresh cilantro, curry powder all add complexity and flavor. If spicy isn’t your thing, simply leave out the cayenne pepper. Go Greek by adding oregano to the soup and finishing each bowl with crumbled feta cheese.

Want some leafy greens here? Feel free! Stir in a few handfuls of baby spinach toward the end of cooking.

What to serve with Red Lentil Soup

Serve Red Lentil Soup as a main dish with a refreshing side salad such as Lebanese Salad to make a meal. Crusty bread or soft rolls are a natural with any bowl of soup; try a homemade roll like my favorite Garlic Knots with Zaatar.

FAQ’s

Can I make red lentil soup in the instant pot? 

This is an instance where the equipment of an instant pot simply is not needed. The pot is more useful when your recipe calls for a longer cook time that you aim to shorten. Red Lentil Soup cooks in less than 30 minutes on the stove!

Is red lentil soup good for you?

This soup provides great nutrition with high plant-based protein and fiber from both the lentils and the bulgur. Lentils are a healthy component of the Mediterranean Diet.

Do you need to soak red lentils before using?

No, red lentils cook from dry.

What happens if you don’t rinse red lentils?

Rinsing red lentils cleans them from any impurities and removes a touch of starch. The lentils cook the same whether rinsed or not.

Are lentils a protein or a carb?

Lentils are a complex carbohydrate, which means they are high in protein and fiber. 

Do you cook red lentils before adding them to soup?

Nope! Red lentils are split and cook very quickly, so no advance cooking is necessary.

More Lentil Recipes

Try using red lentils in my Mediterranean Quinoa Salad which is jam-packed with flavor and nutrition.

The ultimate Lebanese lentil dish is Lebanese Mujadara, a pilaf with lots of caramelized onions, small brown lentils, and rice or bulgur.

My Crisp Lentil Patties Recipe results in fabulous little lentil patties that love a dollop of creamy yogurt on top….

Bowl of lentil tomato soup on the counter
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5 from 4 votes

Easy Lebanese Red Lentil Soup Recipe

By Maureen Abood
This vegetarian and vegan soup is tops on the healthy-delicious list for including grains, legumes, herbs and olive oil. The recipe originates with The Washington Post. Serve the soup as a main course with a salad and some bread. It's also great as a starter or a sustaining lunch mid-day.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 28 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (from about 5 cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomato (fresh or from a 14-15 oz can)
  • 1/2 cup coarse bulgur, #3 grade
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, sorted, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Several grinds black pepper

For the Mint Oil

Instructions 

For the soup:

  • In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and salt, cooking until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, cayenne and tomato paste. Cook for about a minute to release the aroma and flavor. Add the diced tomatoes, increase the heat and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the bulgur, lentils, bulgur, broth, water, and bring back to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils and bulgur are cooked through but not mushy. Stir in the lemon juice and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

For the mint oil:

  • Heat the oil in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook just until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the mint salt and cayenne. Remove from the heat.
  • Serve the soup with a generous drizzle of mint oil on top.

Nutrition

Calories: 245kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 625mg | Potassium: 455mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 525IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 245
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6 Comments

  1. Five stars! So delicious we all went back for seconds…and then thirds. Perfect for a cold winter night, but we will be adding this to our regular menu year round.